\i ^^"^^^^ V.
■^ '^ (. '
t is with great enthusiasm
that I share with you sever-
al bits of good news about
the future of this agency.
During the 2009 legislative
session, the General Assem-
bly endorsed a request to
move our headquarters to a
new location — a move that will save
millions of dollars over time. New of-
fice space will be built along the 1-95
corridor, in the midst of the 'sports-
man's triangle' near Green Top, Gan-
der Mountain, and Bass Pro, just south
of Ashland in central Hanover County.
We believe the convenience of this lo-
cation will appeal to all of our cus-
tomers and provide ease of access
from the interstate. As part of our relo-
cation, we will streamline operations
and reduce square footage — while
gaining a sound, healthy building that
maximizes energy efficiencies. The
move comes after much deliberation,
and we appreciate the support of Sec-
retary of Natural Resources L. Preston
Bryant, Jr., legislators, longtime cus-
tomers, and friends.
Looking ahead, managing talent,
and engaging in succession planning
are integral to sound business prac-
tices, of course. Accordingly, I am com-
mitted to creating career opportunities
for our staff and am thrilled to report
that a leadership development pro-
gram has been put into place. Our first
class of 40 employees has begun this
journey. Those who answered the
leadership call come from
every discipline of our work
and every region of the
state. These employees are
preparing themselves for
future leadership roles
while continuing their cur-
rent assignments. They will
be attending board meetings and
working closely with division directors
over the coming year, building a strong
foundation through cross-training and
refining their leadership skills. I thank
them for their willingness to serve!
Finally, I'd like to formally an-
nounce the creation of the "Bureau of
Wildlife Resources," which brings
under one umbrella the three divisions
of wildlife, wildlife diversity, and fish-
eries. And with grateful appreciation,
I'd like to thank David Whitehurst for
stepping into his new role as bureau
chief. As many of you know, David has
served as head of the fisheries division
and the wildlife diversity division, and
held other key leadership positions
during his tenure with the department.
This structural change embraces a ho-
listic approach to the management of
wildlife resources. It is an approach
that maximizes the application of
human and capital assets — and the
synergies that exist among divisions —
to the work at hand.
It is my hope that you will endorse
these changes, too, and recognize in
them our commitment to a vibrant,
healthy future for Virginia's wildlife.
To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to mainuiin optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth;
To provide opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the
rights of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game a.s provided for in the Constitution of Virginia; To promote safely for persons and prop-
erty in connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of
and appreciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitiits, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities.
Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources
Commonwealth of Virginia
Timothy M. Kaine, Governor
HUNTtNG & FISHING
Subsidized this publication
Secretary of Natural Resources
L. Preston Bryant, Jr.
Department of Game and
Members of the Board
Ward Burton, Halifax
Sherry Smith Crumley Buchanan
William T. Greer, Jr., Norfolk
James W. Hazel, Oakton
C. T. Hill Midlothian
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria
John W. Montgomery Jr., Sandston
Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington
Richard E. Railey, Courtland
Thomas A. Stroup, Fairfax
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland
Sally Mills, Editor
Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon,
Emily Pels, Art Director
Carol Kushlak, Production Manager
Color separations and printing by
Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA.
Virginia Wilcilife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published month-
ly by tlie Virginia Department of Came and Inland
Fisheries. Send all subscription orders and address
changes to Virginia Wildlife, P. O. Box 7477, Red Oak^
Iowa 51591-0477. Address all other communications
concerning this publication to Virginia Wildlife, P. O.
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Copyright 2009 by the Virginia Department of Game,
and Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved.
The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall
afford to all persons an equal access to Department
programs and facilities without regard to race, color,
religion, national origin, disability, sex, or age. If you
believe that you have been discriminated against in
any program, activity or facility, please write to:
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries,
ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broad Street.)
PC. Box 11104, Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104.
"This publication is intended for general information-
al purposes only and every effort has been made to
ensure its accuracy. The information contained herein
does not serve as a legal representation of fish and
wildlife laws or regulations. The Virginia Department
of Game and Inland Fisheries does not assume
responsibility for any change in dates, regulations, or
information that may occur after publication."
About the cover:
Wolf Creek IS
one of many
waters near the
tain WM A and
the Channels, a
enjoy an amazing
life. See related story on page 22.
and address changes
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by King Montgomery
Enjoy tips from expert anglers working the
New River above Claytor Lake.
8Saxis Marsh: A Place of
by Emily M. Grey
Tliis salt marsh offers an escape to outdoors-
men during most any time of the year.
10 Quincy Lands at Raptor Center
Maymont's raptor center makes for a fiiie
summer field trip with the kids.
^M Northern Virginia's
n "Other" Fishery
by Marc N. McGlade
Tlie Occoquan Reservoir serves up more than
a tew record catches.
Ifi Up Close with the Nation's
by Glenda C. Booth
Stealth maneuvers and quick reflexes are
essential job skills for those who track eagles.
OO Rock Solid Conservation
MmMi by D.J. Mathews
Southwest Virginia cheers a new state forest
near the Russell- Washington county border.
OR Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild!
"iW by Spike Knuth
Vireos of Virginia
AFIELD AND AFLOAT
33 Dining In
34 On The Water
by King Montgomery
By some accounts the New
River is the second oldest river
on Earth after the Nile, but 1
can't find definitive evidence to sup-
port the contention. The evidence 1 do
have is that the river is pretty wild,
has great outdoors opportunities, and
hosts one of the best smallmouth fish-
eries I know. State records caught in
the New are: smallmouth bass (8 lb., 1
oz.), muskellunge (45 lb., 8 oz.), yel-
low perch (2 lb., 7 oz.), and a 3 lb., 10
oz. spotted bass from Claytor Lake.
And DGIF fisheries biologists report
the smallmouth bass catching
prospects for the New in 2009 are
The New River begins its north-
ward journey just below the Virginia-
North Carolina border. Formed by
the confluence of the North and
South Forks of the New River in Ashe
County, NC, it meanders several
miles until it crosses into the Old Do-
minion's Grayson County near
Mouth of Wilson. About 160 of the
river's 320 miles flow through south-
After entering West Virginia, the
New joins up with the Gauley River
to form the Kanawha River, a tribu-
tary of the Ohio River which, in turn,
is a tributary of the Mississippi. The
New River's native smallmouth bass
populations are thought to have mi-
grated originally from the Ohio River
system and were not stocked, as in
other Virginia rivers.
Fishing with a Legend
If fly-fishing throughout the world
has a face, it is that of Bernard Victor
"Lefty" Kreh, and I'm proud to call
him friend, fishing partner, and men-
tor. Lefty loves to fish for smallmouth
bass and trout in the commonwealth,
and we've fished together in the
South Fork of the Shenandoah and at
Mossy Creek. In 2008, we fished the
upper New River with guide Mike
Smith, professor of English at Blue-
field State College, author of Fishing
the New River: An Angler's Guide, and
owner of Greasy Creek Outfitters in
Lefty's favorite freshwater fish to
catch is the smallmouth bass. After
his European service with the
Army's field artillery in World War II,
The New River above Claytor Lake offers easy access and the runs, riffles, and rock ledges all hold fish.
Lefty guided for smallmouth on the
upper Potomac River near his home
in Frederick, Maryland. The famous
outdoor writer Joe Brooks, who at
one time lived in RiclTmond, hired
Lefty and showed him how to use a
fly rod. He then became Lefty's men-
tor in fly-fishing and in outdoor writ-
ing, two areas in which Lefty has ex-
celled for the past 60 years.
A Scenic River
Virginia's part of the New above
Claytor Lake is scenic and loaded
with smallies, various sunfishes,
several catfishes, and stocked
walleyes and muskellunge. It is
clean water, with no major industrial
or urban pollution and little devel-
opment along its course from the
North Carolina border to Claytor
Lake. Bounded by farmland in
from fertilizers, insec-
ticides, and manure, and
its banks are subject to
erosion caused by unre-
The upper stretch of the river
flows mostly through sparsely pop-
ulated land, allowing plenty of
movement for wildlife. Eagle, os-
prey, and blue heron are common,
and hundreds of other birds visit or
live in the watershed. Deer, wild
turkey, and black bear call the New
River valley home. Waterfowl, in
season, including the ubiquitous
Canada goose, frequent the New,
feasting on plants in adjacent fields
and on vegetation in the water. And
the smallmouth bass thrive.
Guide Mike Smith, left, and Lefty Kreh admire a young smallmouth bass (also, above) before releasing it.
Let's take an 8-weight and rig it for large-
or smallmouth bass, striped bass, bone-
fish, and many others. The leader should
be tied from the same brand and model of
monofilament or fluorocarbon (for sub-
surface flies) such as used on spinning
reels. Lefty believes this gives uniformity
to the leader in stiffness and other char-
acteristics that enhance its effectiveness.
I favor Berkeley Trilene Big Game 50 yard
mono leader skeins and Berkeley's Vanish
Fluorocarbon also on leader wheels.
For a 9-foot tapered leader, use 4V2
feet of 50-lb. test line, then 1 foot each of
40, 30, and 20 lb. test, the last tied with a
terminal loop such as a peri^ection loop or
surgeon's loop. Use blood knots or sur-
geon's knots to connect the main pieces.
Then loop on an 18-inch piece of tippet
material and you're good to go. Any of
these sections can be off by several inches
so don't worry about exactness. The fish
don't carry tape measures, and casting
and turnover won't be adversely affected
by a little sloppiness. For longer or shorter
leaders, adjust the math accordingly.
Virginio's port ofthe New above Cloytor
Loke is scenic Olid looded with simllies,
stocked wolleyes Olid iimskelhmge.
After our first few days on the New
River, Lefty Kreh said if he had to
give a class on what prime small-
mouth bass living quarters look like,
he'd use photos of the New River in
his presentation. The New has it all:
cool, oxygenated water; varying
depths with breaklines and dropoffs;
shoreline rocks and tree blowdowns;
vegetation; and rock ledges that
stitch the river up and down and
across. These features add up to su-
perb bass habitat.
The portion of the river above
Claytor Lake fishes well from spring
through fall for smallmouth bass,
and it is a wonderful stream to fish
with top-water flies. The bronze-
backs can hang deep under the rock
ledges, but the relatively clear water,
coupled with the smallie's excelling
sight and hearing, allows it to detect
top-water poppers and streak several
feet to the top to smash them! And
this sometimes happens all day long.
Tackle, Tactics, and
Lefty and I both use Temple Fork
Outfitters 9-foot rods, which he helps
design, for casting 8- or 9-weight
floating lines for most of our bass
fishing on the New River. You can use
store-bought knotless, tapered lead-
ers, but we like hand-tied 9- to 11-foot
monofilament leaders tapered down
to a 12- or 15-pound test tippet. (See
sidebar on how to tie Lefty leaders.)
Flies vary, but white poppers worked
best, even at midday, particularly in
late summer. Floater-divers, such as
the Clouser floating minnow, and the
ever-effective Clouser deep minnow
in green /white, brown /white, and
chartreuse / white also work well. If
all else fails, go to a heavy bottom
Weil-known outdoor writer C. Boyd Pfeiffer erijoys fishing the New River.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ wvvw.HuntFishVA.com
Smallmouth bass fly selection should include floaters, shallow divers, and deeper,
bottom offerings. Below: Greasy Creek Outfitters owner/guide Mike Smith displays a
beautiful smallmouth bass.
bouncing crayfish pattern in green or
I caught a citation 20-inch smallmouth
bass while dead-drifting a white popper
with some red on it, around noon along a
mid-river current seam. The fish fought
hard in tlie fast water, but soon came to
net. After a few photos it was released
back to its home, u
Kifjg Montgomery is a long-time contributor to Vir-
ginia Wildlife. He lives in Burke, is a retired Army of-
ficer, and has a degree in fisheries biology. He can he
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New River Information
for river information, fishing regula-
tions, and to purchase a fisliing
• Info on VirgiiTia State Parks is at
www.dcr.virginia.gov / state_parks / .
• Greasy Creek Outfitters, wivw.greasy
Mike Smith also guities trout anglers
on nearby private waters and books
trips to tlie Bahamas. See www.grand
• Fishin<^ the Neiv River Vallei/: An An-
gler's Guidehy M. W. Smith (2002),
University Press of Virginia, www.up
ress.virginia.edu. Concise instructions
of where to go and launch and what to
do to catch fish. Lists gviides, accom-
modations, and more.
• The New River Guide (2nd ed. ) by Bruce
Ingram (2008), Ecopress, www.finney
co.com. Covers the entire New River
and non-fishing recreation as well.
Lists float trips with access points.
by Emily M. Grey
W o the untrained eye,
^ Saxis Marsh may look
S^^ like an endless stretch of
'no man's land'. To the outdoorsman
or woman, serpentine guts ribboned
with golden acres of spartina, sandy
berms, and scattered pine hum-
mocks create a giant playground. De-
pending on the season, tide, and loca-
tion one can hunt, fish, and trap or
paddle surrounding waters through
the evolving Saxis Water Trail Loop.
Nestled in upper Accomack
County on Virginia's Eastern Shore,
Saxis Wildlife Management Area
(Saxis Marsh) remains one of the bay-
side's pristine tidal marshlands.
Owned and managed by the Depart-
ment, it is designated part of Delmar-
va Bayside Marsh IBA, an Audubon
important bird area.
One can watch a diversity of
wildlife along this coastal portion of
the Virginia Birding and Wildlife
Trail, Site CES16. Songbirds, shore-
birds, grebes, loons, and birds of prey,
such as rough-legged hawks and
short-eared owls, join migrating wa-
"Saxis probably offers the best
black duck hunting in the wildlife
management area system, as well as
good hunting for a variety of other
wildfowl species," said Phil West,
manager of DGIF public lands. "The
salt marshes are a great place for
hunters and wildlife watchers to es-
cape civilization and enjoy wildlife in
a unique setting."
The property is divided into two
peninsular tracts — Freeschool and
Michael (or, McKiel) Marsh. It is bor-
dered by the brackish waters of
Beasley Bay, Pocomoke Sound, and
Messongo Creek and several, smaller
With no trails or boardwalks, ac-
cess is limited and challenging. It is
wise to pack insect repellant, boots,
and drinking water. Paddlers unfa-
miliar with the waters may consider
hiring an outfitter, as tides and cur-
rents can be tricky and perilous.
Freeschool Marsh was originally
owned by Samuel Sanford. Probated
in 1712, his will provided that rents
and profits from this land be used to
educate poor children in upper Acco-
In 1873, proceeds from the sale of
this real estate were used to build a
little schoolhouse on nearby Saxis vil-
lage (then called Sykes or Sikes Is-
land). After the public school system
was formed, the schoolhouse became
part of the Saxis Volunteer Fire Com-
In 1925, a causeway was built con-
necting Saxis Island to the marsh.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www, HuntFishVA.com
A PI ace of
More primitive roads linked the
mainland to Saxis through the 1800s.
In 1957, the DGIF purchased
Freeschool and Michael Marsh with
Pittman-Robinson funds. The com-
bined 5,574 acres became known as
Saxis Wildlife Management Area.
Michael Marsh was last co-owned by
the Learning, Robertson, and Klee-
mann families. Public hunting is not
allowed on this tract.
Finney Ewell sold Freeschool
Marsh to the Department. Public
hunting is permitted here on certain
days of the season.
"My grandpa caught 1,000
muskrats one day at Lighter Heart
Pond in Freeschool Marsh," recalled
Danny Marshall, former DGIF game
warden and Finney Ewell's grand-
son. "In winter, their lodges looked
like snowballs stacked in the marsh."
For many years this tract, known
as Ewells Marsh, was a muskrat
ranch. Local people gathered three-
■ •: ■•■.:■ ■■■:
■ .r ■ '.■■•'
^ • "*^
A muskrat skull reminds passersby of the wildlife present in the marsh system.
Above: Grayson Chesser appreciates the rich history of Saxis Marsh.
Barn owls are among the many bird species that breed in Saxis Marsh.
species of ^peciAl Qpncevn
"Saxis Marsh provides a Large area of
high quality habitat for a number of
wildlife species throughout the year,"
said Dr. Gary Costanzo, manager of the
DGIF migratory game bird program. "Wa-
terfowl, including the American black
duck and shorebirds such as the willet
breed, raise their young, and winter
"Ducks can find shelter in many tidal
creeks and can feed on the seeds of
marsh vegetation and abundant inverte-
brates such as snails and crabs," he con-
tinued. "The marsh also serves as a nurs-
ery for a number of saltwater fish species
and provides habitat for shellfish."
Despite the biodiversity at Saxis
WMA, DGIF is observing "species of spe-
cial concern." These are faunal species
classified as federally or state endan-
gered or threatened, or in the Depart-
ment's special concern status category.
Primary threats to bird populations
include loss of habitat due to sea level
rise and raccoon and gray and red fox
predation. Invasions of common reed
and black needlerush are impeding sur-
vival of Henslow's sparrow, once a preva-
lent nester, and black rails, sedge wrens,
and seaside sparrows.
Saxis Marsh is home to Virginia's
largest population of saltmarsh sharp-
tailed sparrows. American oystercatchers,
Forster's terns, and barn owls are other
significant breeders. Peregrine falcons,
chuck-wills widows, bald eagles, prairie
warblers, and eastern meadowlarks are
other birds of special concern here.
Someday, northeastern beach tiger
beetle larvae, which inhabit vertical bur-
rows along the intertidal zone, may be
obliterated by rising sea levels.
Northern diamondback terrapins, Vir-
ginia northern flying squirrels, and east-
ern hog-nosed snakes are other non-avian
species of immediate conservation need.
Virginia's Wildlife Action Plan allows
DGIF staff to manage wildlife and habitats
across six state eco-regions. Through
careful monitoring, hope remains alive for
those of special concern. Go to www.be
"The salt marshes are a great place for
hunters and wildlife watchers to escape
civilization and enjoy wildlife in a
unique setting. "
square grass seed for sale to off-shore
buyers. Windmills pumped water
into ponds during dry spells.
Lifelong resident of the area
Granville D. Ross was DGlF's game
manager during the 1957 Saxis
Marsh purchases. Banding water-
fowl, trapping, and keeping bound-
aries separated were part of his job.
"I was dedicated to the protection
of Saxis Marsh," said Ross, also a for-
mer U.S. Deputy for the Fish and
Wildlife Service and part-time DGIF
game warden. "1 spent many a night
with a box of crackers, a Coca Cola,
and a can of beans watching for
poachers. Residents' backyards were
marshes. Some took what they could
while they could.
"I got a kick out of watching Cana-
da geese in the fields," he continued.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ wvvw.HuntFishVA.com
The guts of a marsh provide needed
shelter to a host of waterfowl, fish, and
Last November, former DGIF game
warden Grayson Chesser and I
cruised by skiff through Jack's Gut
and other inlets of Saxis Marsh. This
renowned decoy carver operates
Holden Creek Gun Club on histori-
cal, family property at nearby Jenk-
On this unseasonably warm,
sunny afternoon, surf scoters, green-
winged teal, and black ducks winged
over Drum Bay. At Freeschool
Marsh, we startled a flock of seaside
sparrows and discovered a muskrat
skull lying on the beach.
Mink, opossum, cottontail rab-
bits, river otter, and white-tailed deer
also inhabit this terrain. Rockfish,
flounder, and a variety of trout,
drum, and other fish give sport to an-
glers in open waters.
A peregrine falcon nesting plat-
form still looms over saltwater bush-
Directions to Saxis
Wildlife Management Area:
From U.S. Highway 13 at Temperanceville,
take Route 695 west on Saxis Road for
approximately 10 miles.
J^ictcU ^uck ^tudff
In Saxis Marsh and other traditional winter-
ing areas, American black duck populations
have declined by as much as 60 percent. To
pinpoint the causes. Ducks Unlimited and
its partners, including DGIF, initiated a
multi-year study in several East Coast states.
Capturing and fitting female black ducks
with GPS transmitters (shown here) allows
researchers to track the birds as they move
from wintering to staging to breeding
grounds. Landscape analysis using satellite
imagery and GIS helps researchers deter-
mine whether there is adequate habitat to
support black duck wintering populations.
Important black duck food samples, such as
invertebrates and aquatic vegetation, are
"We're trying to estimate the availability
of foods consumed by black ducks on the
Eastern Shore," explained Ben Lewis, gradu-
ate candidate Illinois State University work-
ing with DU. "Preliminary results show
there's much less food available in impor-
tant black duck habitat."
"With wateri'ront development, it's espe-
cially important to leave marshes and
wildlife refuges that can serve as natural
buffers and provide habitat," he added.
es. We spotted Michael Marsh to the
south and the remains of the Drum
Bay Hunt Club hut at Tunnels Island.
A mile to the north lies Maryland's
"Every piece of Saxis Marsh is
beautiful," Grayson opined. "I don't
know how long it will last. It's going
away fast. A lot of little tumps and is-
lands have already washed away.
There's little marsh left between the
causeway and the sound."
Barely three feet above sea level,
Saxis Marsh's hummocks are shrines
to dead cedars and loblolly pines lost
to storms and flooding. Climate
change is a minimally addressed,
local issue. Like a silent killer, steadily
rising sea levels continually diminish
the bayside landscape.
The clean, briny air, vast land-
scape, and stark natural features
made the trek worthwhile. A rare
glimpse at Nelson's sharp-tailed
sparrows in winter, flycatchers in
warm seasons, and other sensitive
and familiar species are nature's gifts.
We docked at the village of Saxis,
human population just over 300.
Crabhouses and slips with work-
boats and pleasure craft decked the
shoreline. Saxis, Messongo Creek,
and Marsh Market offer free public
"Of all the water towns on the
Eastern Shore, Saxis is close to what it
was in the beginning," Chesser said.
By the quayside and fishing pier
in winter, one may see northern can-
vasback, common eider, and redhead
ducks mingled with mergansers,
goldeneye, and resident mallards.
Perhaps the growing focus on
Saxis Marsh with its varied outdoor
recreation and watchable wildlife
may be just the antidote that rejuve-
nates the tiny fishing hamlet of
Emily M. Grey is a writer, photograpiier, natu-
ralist, and attorney from Virginia's Eastern
Shore. Her passions are nature, traveling, and
interacting with varied cultures.
^ For More Information
"^ Virginia Department of Game and
I Inland Fisheries, (804) 829-6580
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ vwvw.HuntFishVA.com
// ' x^
Quincy became the first bald
eagle to enter the Robert M.
Freeman Bald Eagle Habitat
and Raptor Valley, located at May-
mont, in Richmond. The eagle was
nursed back to health following par-
tial amputation of one wing at the
Wildlife Center in Waynesboro, after
being found near death at a landfill in
King and Queen County. The bird is
named for President John Quincy
Adams, whose father. President John
Adams, was critical to making the
bald eagle our national symbol.
Maymont's Eagle Habitat
and Raptor Valley
The natural environment is enclosed
with open wire fencing to protect the
birds from other prey — both human
and animal. Signs along the handi-
capped-accessible trail provide infor-
mation about the bald eagle and
other birds like the Cooper's hawk,
barred owl, American kestrel, and
The new Wachovia Amphitheater
seats 60 and provides a venue for on-
going educational programs about
Virginia's wildlife and their environ-
ment, including birds of prey.
These are 'non-relocatable' birds
that need protection to live comfort-
ably with dignity and respect. May-
mont does not accept injured ani-
mals, as it is not a treatment facility,
according to Henry Buz Bireline, di-
rector of habitats and nature center at
Bireline adds that the U. S. Fish
and Wildlife Service and the Depart-
ment (DGIF) have cooperated with
permits required for these animals to
become residents — as is the case for
any endangered species on the feder-
al or state list.
At the dedication last September,
DGIF's David Whitehurst said, "This
beautiful new facility is an outstand-
ing tribute to Robert M. Freeman. It's
a perfect expression of his affection
for the nation's symbol — the bald
eagle — and for nature. It is also an
outstanding manifestation of Mr.
Freeman's desire to share his deep
and enduring appreciation for eagles
and wildlife with others. His family
has chosen a wonderful venue in
Maymont to accomplish Mr. Free-
Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife
Center, added, "Many people have
heard the phrase, 'People protect
what they love, love what they un-
derstand, and understand what they
are taught', but nowhere is that more
relevant than in wildlife conserva-
tion. Creatures that were once killed
on sight as pests and vermin are now
revered and protected as a result of a
fundamental change in society's atti-
tiide toward raptors and other pred-
ators, a change brought about
through education. This new exliibit
will extend and reinforce the public's
understanding and love of birds of
prey, and will ultimately lead to a
greater appreciation of these won-
Have you been to the exhibit yet?
Try going afield to see all of these
birds in one day: It will not happen!
You'll want to retvirn to this magnifi-
cent facility where animals are man-
aged in perpetuity for our education
and enjoyment. Visit: www.may
Marikn Bi/rd of Glen Allen is a freelance
ivriter/pliotographer and member of the Vir-
ginia Outdoor Writers Association.
Wildlife Center president Ed Clark
prepares to release Quincy into the new
by Marc N. McGlade
Northern Virginia's Occoquan Reservoir lies
in the shadow of the Potomac River-
hut it shouldn't.
y white spinner bait landed
alongside the blowdown
on the craggy shoreline
with nary a splash. A crank or two of
my bait-casting reel's handle set the
baitfish imitator in motion. Before I
realized what was happening, a vi-
cious strike and street fight ensued.
The bursting colors of towering
trees gave reassurance that fall is in-
deed a beautiful time of year in Vir-
ginia. Catching a fish this strong
helped reinforce my love of auttimn,
as well. When it was all said and
done, the 37.5-inch northern pike
weighed 12.5 pounds, and reigned as
Occoquan Reservoir's record for
three years. Monroe Parker, the leg-
endary ranger at Fountainhead Re-
gional Park, informed me that it was
the de facto lake record until three
years later when a 16-pounder
usurped my catch.
While this story is not about
northern pike, it is about Occoquan
Reservoir. Pike are rarely stocked at
the reservoir straddling Fairfax and
Prince William counties, but other
species abound, and this body of
water is a don't-miss spot in North-
ern Virginia for anglers of all types.
Occoquan Reservoir is among the
top-producing lakes in the region for
largemouth bass and crappies, most
Flathead catfish are plentiful at
Occoquan, as are whitetails and
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www HuntFishVA.com
Crappie (shown here) and largemouth
bass are favored by anglers.
notably in the spring. Additionally,
this reservoir holds the current state
record for flathead catfish. A
whiskered beast of 66 pounds, 4
ounces reigns supreme as the com-
monwealth's champion flathead.
Formed by the confluence of Bull
Run and Occoquan River, this 2,100-
acre reservoir is a steep-sided, deep
body of water that can present fishing
challenges. When crafty anglers un-
lock the secret here, it can be a dyna-
mite place to catch trophy-sized fish
of a variety of species.
While most anglers in the north-
ern portion of the commonwealth
pursue bass on the famed Potomac
River, a growing cluster of them con-
Anglers can rent boats at the reservoir
and enjoy beautiful scenery.
centrate their efforts on this scenic
reservoir. Officials at the reservoir en-
force a 10-horsepower maximum
limitation for outboards, which is still
a viable choice for larger boats that
-1 have efficient trolling motors. There
^ are plenty of productive spots to tar-
f get close to each of the marinas.
@ The historic town of Occoquan
nestled at the base of the Occoquan
Reservoir dam overlooks the Occo-
quan River. Above the dam is a veri-
table gold mine for anglers.
Flatheads are omnivorous but
feed primarily on live fish. They will
venture into very shallow waters at
times. They are found in large rivers
and lakes and prefer deep, slow
stretches near strong currents. These
solitary specimens use riprap, brush
piles, sunken logs, and other debris
for cover. Seventy-two to 84-degree
water temps represent the optimal
spawning time for flatheads.
"For some reason," Odenkirk
said, "this population never 'explod-
ed' like many other populations in
the Southeast outside its native
range. This population has persisted
at a relatively low level for many
decades." Odenkirk explained that
when a small population exists — es-
pecially a non-native one — a compet-
itive advantage may occur, allowing
those individuals to reach trophy
proportions. This, he adds, is a simi-
lar situation to Lake Orange's world-
record white bass.
"That coupled with good forage
and productivity, probably had the
most to do with growing that flat-
head catfish," he said.
Mike Willems was the angler who
caught the trophy on May 6, 1994.
Catches of flathead catfish weighing
25 pounds or measuring 40 inches in
length qualify for a trophy fish certifi-
cate from the DGIF.
Jusl the Fads
According to John Odenkirk, a fish-
eries biologist with the Department
(DGIF), very few flathead catfish
were stocked into Occoquan in the
The flathead catfish (Pylodictis oli-
varis) has nicknames such as yellow
cat, mud cat, and shovelhead cat.
This large species sports a broad and
flat head. Its lower jaw protrudes be- -S
yond the upper. Flatheads have a '^
slightly rounded tail and a yellowish u
or cream-colored background, high- £
lighted with black, dark brown, or
olive mottling on their backs and
Former Fairfax resident Kurt Dove fishes
for largemouth bass.
There are plenty of boats available to rent at Fountainhead Regional Park and other
"The angler (Willems) brought
that flathead to Locust Shade Park
during a fishing dedication to have it
checked (certified)," Odenkirk said.
"He carried it down live in an upside
down roof-top car carrier, and re-
txirned it alive to the reservoir after it
was checked and weighed."
Anything Else to Catch?
Other than tlatheads, there indeed
are more species to conquer at Occo-
"This is mostly known as one of
the district's best largemouth bass
waters," claimed Odenkirk. "It also
has great crappie fishing (whites and
blacks), and a good channel cat pop-
ulation. It receives surplus northern
pike from time to time, but I would
not recommend it for that."
Of course, whenever a body of
water coughs up a state record,
thoughts immediately turn to ques-
tions if another monster could be
lurking, regardless of the species.
Odenkirk replied, "Yes, there
could, but probably only for flat-
heads and perhaps crappie or a chan-
The main draw here is not flat-
heads. While occasional giant flatties
do show their whiskered faces, the
largemouth bass fishery is the real
"When we were keeping tourna-
ment records (for largemouth bass),
Occoquan Reservoir had the highest
catch rate for largemouth tourna-
ments over any other state water,"
Odenkirk explained. "Even more
than Anna, Smith Mountain, Buggs
Island, etc. I have heard anglers com-
plain that they only catch 2- to 5-
pounders all the time."
While Odenkirk acknowledges
there aren't many trophy fish certifi-
cates issued for bass (22 inches in
Opportunities abound for pier fishing at
length or weighing 8 pounds or
more) at Occoquan Reservoir, there
are loads of fish in the 2- to 5-pound
Worth the Trip
Not to take anything away from tlie
famed Potomac River, but anglers in
the northern portion of the common-
wealth — or visitors to the region —
would be doing themselves a great
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www HuntFishVA.com
Kurt Dove, a professional bass fisherman, hefts a chunky largemouth bass.
disservice by not casting a line in Oc-
coquan Reservoir. Crowds, when
compared to other area waters, are
significantly less. The fish are cooper-
ative, the scenery is beautiful, and
perhaps another state-record flat-
head is swimming around. Maybe a
crappie or channel cat, as well.
I wonder if 1 head back up there
and burn a white spinner bait along-
side a blowdown if 1 could catch an-
other northern pike . . . f I
Marc N. McGlade is a writer and photographer
from Midlothian, who i)i the past frequented Oc-
coquan Reservoir wlmiever he got the chance
when lie lived in Northern Virginia.
For More Information
• For fisheries information and reg-
ulations regarding Occoquan
Reservoir, contact the DGIF Re-
gion 5 office in Fredericksburg by
phone at (540) 899-4169. For even
more information, visit online at
Boat launch ramps and rental boat
facilities include Fountainhead Re-
gional Park, (703) 250-9124; Lake
Ridge Park, (703) 494-5288; and
Bull Run Marina. Currently, Bull
Run Marina is not staffed, but
boaters who desire to launch wa-
tercraft at the marina may pur-
chase a season pass and gate key
from Fountainhead Regional Park.
There is a 10-horsepower maxi-
mum limitation for outboard en-
gines at Occoquan Reservoir.
For an updated, cjuality map, refer
to "GMCO's Pro Scries Map of Occo-
quan Reservoir." Contact them by
phone at (888) 420-6277 or (540)
286-6908, by e-mail at gmcomaps
@comcast.net, or visit their Web
site at ww^w.gmcomaps.com.
A walkway and fishing pier provide
convenient access to landlubbers.
by GlendaC. Booth
A sliver of mid-March moon
and sparkling sky gently il-
luminate soybean stubble in
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's
Rappahannock River Valley National
Wildlife Refuge. It's 5:30 a.m., 36 de-
Her truck bed loaded with three
deer carcasses, Sandy Spencer, U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service biologist, joins
DGIF coordinator for nongame bird
projects Jeff Cooper in the Richmond
County field. The land called the Tay-
loe Tract abuts Cat Point Creek, a tidal
tribvitary of the Rappahannock River.
They quietly align the deer near the
mid-point of a 30-by-40-foot nylon net
furled under a camouflage of loose
hay. The goal? To catch a bald eagle
Cooper and Spencer then retreat to
a dark, weathered shed 100 yards
from the net, partly concealed by bri-
ars and shrubs, where two volunteers
shuffle in the chill. Dawn's avian cho-
rus begins its crescendo.
Everyone peeks through several 2-
to 4-inch vertical gaps in the walls.
Around 7 a.m.. Cooper spots three
bald eagles fishing in the creek,
nowhere near the bait. The group
waits . . . and waits . . . and waits . . .
and waits some more. In between
chunks of homemade cornbread.
Jeff Cooper, DGIF coordinator for
nongame bird projects, displays the
catch, a male bald eagle around three
years old. Right: Cooper extracts the
eagle from the net.
someone jokes about the area's repu-
tation as an eagle hotspot. In fact, it
had 145 eagles in 2007. The gizzard
shad and white perch are running
and the birds are probably feeding on
fish, speculates Cooper. More wait-
Several vultures swoop across the
sky, investigating aerially. A few ea-
gles soar overhead off and on, cir-
cling broadly 300 to 400 feet up, but
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
one." Small or not, he's important.
Cooper and Spencer slip an im-
provised sock cap over the bird's
head to calm him. They examine his
plumage and Cooper explains that he
is a third-year bird with second-year
plumage. They bind his claws with
With the bird's eyes covered and
talons bound, they measure the beak,
wing and halux (or, thumb). They
swaddle the body, with an ace band-
age and weigh him: eight pounds
and four ounces.
Cooper clamps a metal band on
each ankle. The first is from the U. S.
Geological Survey banding lab,
bands that have been used for
they drift away. It seems like an avian
tease. Finally, around hour four, a
bald eagle checks out the bait at 100
feet or so above.
At 10:55, the morning has
warmed up and two unsuspecting
turkey vultures suddenly land and
begin to feed — a good sign! Wary ea-
gles are lured to land if vultures are
feeding, says Cooper.
At 11:00, a mottled eagle sails
overhead just above the tree tops and
suddenly hits the ground 30 yards
away from the deer, out of the net's
range. Cooper instructs, "Be quiet.
It takes five years for a bald eagle to
reach full maturity and acquire a white
head and white tail.
The eagle takes halting 'baby
steps' for what seems like an hour to-
ward the bait. Everyone cranes,
stiffly, soundlessly. Under his breath.
Cooper says that the eagle is nibbling;
a catch could be imminent. He begins
a whispered countdown. "Don't fire
until I say fire," he instructs Bob
Cralle, a first-time volunteer assigned
to push the detonator. Slowly, slowly,
dragging out the words. Cooper in-
tones, "Three." Pause. "Two." Pause.
"One." Long pause. "Fire!" Cralle
A deafening blast cuts across the
field and in split seconds, three rock-
ets propel the net up, out, and down
over the birds. "We got him," Cooper
exults, and he yells at David White-
hurst, who serves as the director of
the bureau of wildlife resources for
the DGIF and happens to be a long
distance runner, to sprint to the cap-
tives. The less agile follow.
Cooper throws his coat over the
scrunched up eagle. Carefully han-
dling the bird's razor-sharp talons
and menacing beak, he deftly extracts
the bird from the net, his experience
evident. This is one angry bird. Coop-
er says it's a male. The eagle repeat-
edly stretches his beak open wide,
slashes around his long pink tongue
and glares at his captors with fierce,
piercing eyes. He's ready for battle.
Cooper announces, "He's a small
USF&WS biologist Sandy Spencer weighs
the young eagle.
decades. Band recovery provides
most of what scientists know about
birds' movements. 'Our' eagle be-
comes number 62947696.
Then Cooper puts on a purple
band, identifying the eagle as "W"
over "C," widi purple denoting that
the catch was in the Chesapeake Bay
area. Each East Coast state uses a dif-
After a picture-taking session, 15
minutes have elapsed. Cooper
loosens the binds and sends "W. C."
to the skies.
Looking for Answers
why do biologists go out before
sun-up in the cold, crouch in a dark
shed, squint through board slits for
hours, and scan the sky for eagles?
"This will help us better understand
their movement among states and
among concentration areas in Vir-
ginia and Maryland. It will help us lo-
cate high priority habitat and protect
these areas, which in turn helps en-
sure the eagles' survival," answers
The Chesapeake Bay, a rich fish-
ery, is an area of convergence for mi-
grating bald eagles and has the sec-
ond largest breeding population on
the East Coast. The Rappahannock,
James, Potomac, York, Nanticoke,
and Pocomoke rivers are home to
The Chesapeake region hosts
three distinct populations: resident
eagles that move around but primari-
ly stay in the bay area, 'northern' ea-
gles that use the bay in the winter and
'southern' eagles that use the estuary
in the summer. "These birds are hard-
wired to use the bay as an important
component of their life cycle," stress-
Cooper wants to learn more about
communal roosts. "A roost site is
more important than a single nest site
because it is used by multiple birds,
migrants, and immature birds," he
emphasizes. Biologists think that ea-
gles may "exchange information"
and that the young learn from older
birds on the roosts.
Above: Cooper measures the eagle's wingspan, as Spencer assists. DGIF's David
Whitehurst records the data. Below left: Cooper measures the talon.
Bald eagle facts — www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/birds/bald-
The Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge —
History of recovery — www.fws.gov/midwest/eagle/recovery/
Virginia's Breeding Population and Productivity —
Virginia's Protection Guidelines — www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/laws/
Federal Management Guidelines — www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/
DGIF Eagle cam: www.dgif.virginia.gov/eaglecam.
if you see a beinded eagle —
Report any banded eagle you see (and ideally, the number) to the
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 804-367-1693.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
Releasing a banded eagle safely back to
its natural environs is the ultimate goal.
"We don't know where many
roosts are, but if we did, it would en-
able us to assess the quality of the site,
the extent of use, and then work witli
landowners to preserve the site,"
Spencer says. "Roost sites and forage
areas are as important as nests in the
bald eagle's life cycle, but because
they may not be as obvious to the ca-
sual observer, they may inadvertent-
ly be impacted by incompatible land
Why does DGIF do this work?
"What happens in Virginia, Mary-
land and the Chesapeake Bay has im-
plications for populations up and
down the East Coast. We have a lot of
responsibility not only for our breed-
ing population, but for migrant ea-
gles that depend on the bay's concen-
tration areas for part of their life
cycle," maintains Cooper.
"We need to know what areas are
of highest importance to ensure that
high quality habitat is not lost. Track-
ing and monitoring eagles is the only
way to identify where high priority
areas are located. That is one of the
most important bits of information
we could glean if we used transmit-
ters," he emphasizes.
Habitat loss is the major threat to bald
eagles today. Cooper explained in a
later interview. Shoreline habitat is di-
minishing, especially on the Po-
tomac, James, and Rappahannock
rivers. "Once it's developed, it's out
of production forever," Cooper
Eagle expert Brian Watts con-
curred: "Urban sprawl and shoreline
development have replaced DDT as
the greatest threat," said Watts, who
directs William and Mary College's
Center for Conservation Biology.
"With more than 75 percent of pairs
on private land, the future will rest
with private landowners," he added.
Cooper works with hundreds of
landowners and usually, they find
ways to protect eagles and still use
private property. "In most instances,
development is not stopped," he said.
Federal wildlife managers like
those at the Rappahannock refuge are
permanently protecting bald eagle
habitat along several Virginia water-
ways. "Bald eagles are an important
focus of our management on three
refuges on the James and Rappalian-
nock rivers," said Joe McCauley, Rap-
pahannock refuge manager. "It's the
most important function we serve.
Just because eagles were removed
from the list of federally-threatened
species, there's still work to be done.
Now that they are completely re-
moved does not mean we can relax.
FWS will still maintain it as a focal
species," he stressed.
Toxic lead is another worry. Coop-
er gets several reports a year of lead
toxicosis in bald eagles. "Lead poi-
soning in eagles is surprisingly com-
mon," according to Jonathan Slee-
man, DGIF's wildlife veterinarian.
While sources are unconfirmed, Slee-
man suspects eagles come across it in
fishing sinkers and lead shot. Steel
and many alternatives are now avail-
able to anglers and hunters.
Starting in the winter, DGIF and
Virginia Tech will take blood samples,
measure lead levels, try to correlate the
findings with the food eagles eat, and
analyze body growth.
Finally, there's global warming.
Cooper speculates that with warmer
winters up north and more open water
there, fewer eagles may be coming
south, but this has not been docviment-
ed. Warming can also affect tlie remge
and distribution of prey species and
change salinity levels in rivers.
"Risiiig temperatures and sea level
in the state will likely change the
makeup of entire ecosystems, forciiig
wildlife to shift their ranges or adapt,"
says the National Wildlife Foundation.
Global warming is linked to many
birds moving their traditional ranges.
The bald eagle's range is moving in-
land, according to a February National
Audubon Society report. "Now they
are wintering inland as far north as the
ice will let them and they now winter
all across the 48 states and southern
Canada. We found wintering bald ea-
gles increasing in all 48 contiguous
states," reported Greg Butcher,
Audubon's director of bird conserva-
Cooper is in his second year of rocket
netting eagles. In 2008, he caught tliree;
in 2009, 11. He has his fingers crossed
for satellite telemetry equipment,
which costs around $2,500 per bird,
plus $200 per month or so to track a
Jeff Cooper devotes hours — at all
hours — in light or dark, to crawl
around farm fields and hide out in old
sheds to save bald eagles. What's next?
He hopes to catch 40 to 50 bald eagles a
year in multiple locations over the next
five winters to expand our knowledge
of this majestic bird, symbol of the
strength of the nation.
"It's just a matter of having the
time. It's not too hard to catch them,"
he chuckled. D
Glcnda C. Booth, a freelance writer and legislative
consultant, grezo up in Southwest Virginia and
has lived in Northern Virginia 37 years, where she
is active in conservation efforts.
BS?%.. -^ >a
*p^-r ""^ ^^
**" si:- '*'' "^^^ S
Perseveres to Save
^K AT hen my sons were young,
m^' we sometimes ventured up
WW a steep trail, a trail leading to
an old firetower and rocky overlooks.
You could see the sharp line of the sce-
nic Clinch Mountain chain on this
border between Washington and Rus-
sell counties in southwest Virginia,
close to the Hayter's Gap community.
My husband even brought a boy
scout troop up there to camp, the
night clear enough for a dazzling
show of shooting stars.
Recently, I went up that trail again.
This time it was with hiking compan-
ions Tom Hunter, a longtime birder,
and Bill Dingus, southwest steward
for the state's Natural Heritage Divi-
sion. Our trail was ablaze with the
tiny white flowers of garlic mustard,
an alien species Dingus said was far
too pervasive to try to eradicate.
Hunter, who'd brought a riny CD de-
vice complete with different bird calls,
tried to determine what we heard in
the distance. At over 3,000 feet, neo-
tropical birds were migrating through
this soon-to-be designated state for-
est, like the brightly colored red tan-
ager we spied in the barely leafing out
tree canopy overhead. We also found
the off-white little eggs of a junco
that'd just flown off — her nest in the
bank barely covered by some stringy,
gray material. But on that particvilar
day, we were on our way to seeing
something even more unique: the
About 30 steps beyond the loom-
ing, 50-foot firetower, through rhodo-
dendron and other shrubs, were
some 48 acres of rock formations
called the Channels. Originally ;
named "The Great Channels," the ^
rocks jut out of Hayter's Knob — part ^
of what locals call Brumley Moun- ^
tain. Iridescent in the sun, the rocks j|
are a maze of sandstone some 30 feet
high, many pitted with shallow holes
or marked by wavy lines. This sug-
gests the rocks may have been under
water millions of years ago. But pre-
serve manager Claiborne Woodall
said the 400-million-year-old rocks
were likely formed by the forces of
erosion on a sandstone cap. The
Channels forest is also home to the
very delicate and rare wildflower
Carolina saxifrage, which is "very
common on cliff faces in this part of
the state," he added. Woodall was ex-
cited to tell us the 721-acre Channels
Natural Area Preserve would be-
come part of the new, 4,836-acre state
forest to be named after The Chan-
nels. Accordingly, it will be open to
hunting" . . . the same as (other) state
forests," Woodall noted.
Colorful mountain laurel and wildflowers adorn the forest understory.
Block bears benefit from forest protection.
As far back as March 2002, a pro-
posal had come before the Washing-
ton County Board of Supervisors to
sub-divide 5,000 acres atop Brumley
Mountain into 19 lots for homes.
Nearby Poor Valley residents and
some prominent individuals strenu-
ously protested this move. One of
those who brought the issue to a
wider audience's attention was Jack
Kestner. Kestner, a retired newspa-
perman who'd brought his teenage
children from Chesapeake back to
Hayter's Gap in 1977, where he'd
grown up, later wrote about the sim-
ple life in the mountains for the Bristol
A stint in the small booth in the
firetower as a fire lookout one sum-
mer inspired Keshier to write about
his experiences in a young adult
book, Firetoioer, which came out in
1960. The story inspired Charles
Kennedy, who first learned of the
property as a student reading the
book, to purchase 103 acres adjacent
to the Channels in 2000. He then built
the Raven's Ridge Campground and
Bed and Breakfast, where he and wife
Alona provided home-cooked meals
and pristine views at 3,700 feet.
Living so close to author Kestner's
home, Kennedy met him and they
hiked the Chaniiels. Before Kennedy
was even aware his land was being
considered for takeover and develop-
Big Tumbling Creek, Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area
merit. Bill Wasserman, on the south-
ern, Russell County side of the
mountain, was trying to preserve
Hayter's Knob. Wasserman, a hiker
with a 500-acre conservation ease-
ment on his own property, let
Kennedy know of his struggles to
keep the land nearby free of develop-
ment. For many years the land
around Hayter's Knob was owned
by the Tommie Upchurch family,
who thoroughly logged the area.
Wasserman learned that the Depart-
ment of Forestry had put the firetow-
er up for sale and he put in a success-
ful bid. But Upchurch "wanted to sell
the whole area around the firetower
[including] the Channels," Wasser-
man pointed out.
In September 2001, the 4,800-acre
Upchurch property was sold to Ed-
wards Wood Products of North Car-
olina, who wished to ultimately di-
vide the land into lots for a gated sub-
division. That idea was presented to
the Washington County Board of Su-
pervisors in 2002, after a preliminary
public hearing by the county's plan-
ning commission. Kennedy, Kestner,
and others protested the plans of Ed-
wards Wood Products, and fortu-
nately, the option to divide up the
mountain was voted down.
Board member Bobby Ingle later
said, "I didn't want to look 25 miles
away [from the Abingdon area] and
see houses on it. . . we don't need to
develop even/thing." In 2003 the re-
gional Nature Conservancy office
looked at the unique area, and pur-
chased the property in 2004 for about
$3.6 million. The i)ehind-the-scenes
efforts of The Mountain Heritage
Foundation helped make it happen.
The MH Foundation, a southwest
group, had been working on procur-
ing easements and money to connect
Hidden Valley Wildlife Management
Area, to the west of Brumley Gap and
the Channels, to the Department's
Clinch Mountain Wildlife Manage-
ment Area near Laurel Bed Lake to
Foundation lawyer and St. Paul
conservationist Frank Kilgore ap-
proached the Nature Conservancy
about the state taking over the 4,800
acres and designating a small portion
a natural area preserve. This would
bring the foundation closer to creat-
ing a trail connecting the different
With some lobbying, state funds
to purchase the land from the Nature
Conservancy were procured through
local legislators — including state sen-
ators Phillip Puckett, William
Wampler Jr., and delegate Joseph
Johnson. Regional Nature Conser-
vancy director Brad Kreps appreciat-
ed the fact that the legislators cham-
pioned the idea of a state forest. Con-
necting three wildlife areas, he said,
would create a "conservation corri-
dor" that wildlife in the area could
take advantage of.
On May 9, 2008, the Channels
State Forest was officially dedicated
at the Hayter's Gap Community
Center. Tom Smith, who directs the
Virginia Natural Heritage Program,
said the forest came about because of
new partnerships. This included
funds from the general assembly, the
Virginia Land Conservation Fund,
and DCR's Natural Heritage Pro-
Although neither Kestner nor
Kennedy lived to see the Channels
become part of a state forest. Senator
Puckett expressed sincere gratitude
for their efforts to save the Channels
D. /. Mathews is a freelance writer from St. Paul
wlw ivrites on outdoor and education topics. She
is a Virginia Master Naturalist member.
The Channels State Forest: 4,836
WItere: 15 miles north of Abingdon,
Activities Permitted: hiking, bird
watching, hunting in season
For Directions: Call the regional VA
Department of Forestry office at 276-
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
story and illustrations
by Spike Knuth
The vireos are among the
most difficult birds to see
and identify with the
naked eye. Most of them reside in the
upper canopy of large shade trees
like oak, hickory, maple, elm,
sycamore, and Cottonwood. They are
difficult to find in tliick vegetation, let
alone by field marks. And when
looking up into trees, the background
of either a bright or an overcast sky
renders only a dark silhouette. Most
often, their best "field marks" are
their songs, all of which are some-
The Latin word "vireo" means "I
am green," and one of the old names
of these birds was "greenlet." They
are small, slow-moving, tree-
dwelling birds. Taxonomists once as-
sociated them with warblers but ac-
cording to the Smithsonian field
guide, "They are part of an Aus-
tralasian lineage that is also repre-
sented in North America by the
shrikes and corvids (crows and
jays)." They do have a slightly
hooked beak like a shrike, but feed-
ing habits are not the same as the
shrike which preys on large insects,
small birds, and small mice. Vireos
move about in the trees more like tan-
agers, feeding on caterpillars, other
insects, and wild fruits.
Nests represent another distinc-
tion of this clan of birds. They build
pouch-like nests that hang from the
forks of trees. They are constructed of
plant fibers, mosses, lichens, spider
silk, hair, wasp paper, leaves, and fine
grasses. Vireos lay 3 to 5 white or
pinkish-white eggs marked to vary-
ing degrees with brown. Incubation
typically takes 12 to 16 days.
Vireos are generally olive-green to
olive-gray above, buffy white or yel-
lowish below, with some bright
green or yellow, and some have dark
or bluish-gray heads. Some have
INIA WILDLIFE ♦ www, HuntFishVA.com
wing DarsTW eye rings, or eyebrow
stripes. Vireos are stockier and slower
moving than warblers.
This is the most common of our vire-
os. It is nearly impossible to walk into
a summer woodlands without hear-
ing its incessant call which gives rise
to one of its nicknames, "preacher
bird." Its call has been phonetically
described as "hear me-over here-see
me-can't you see?" Like most vireos,
the red-eyed stay high in the upper
canopy, moving about slowly, search-
ing diligently for insects, especially
They are about 6'/2 inches long,
with a dark olive back, darker wings,
and tail, with white underparts that
are lightly washed with yellow or
green. They lack wing bars but show
a white line over the eye, a gray cap
edged with black, and, of course, the
Red-eyed vireos generally nest in
the fork of a tree or large shrub,
building a hanging but
nest (leading to anoth-
er of its names, "little
hang nest"). The
nests are so sturdy
that they may last
for years and pro-
vide homes for
mice. In acldition
to insects, tliey will
feed on wild berries
and other plant
fruits. They leave
Virginia by October
and winter from the Gulf coast
as far south as Brazil.
wing bars, a gray rump, and a distinct
yellow eye ring.
This bird reaches Virginia in late
April aiid nests in the forks of decidu-
ous trees, usually high up, building a
typical pouch-like nest camouflaged
with cocoons and lichens and bomid
together with spider silk. Yellow-
throats forage high in the upper
canopy of large shade trees, especial-
ly oaks, in open woods with dense
understory. They feed on insects, u"i-
sect larvae, and wild fruits at the end
Migration south occurs in early
September; they winter from south-
ern Florida to Mexico, and from Cen-
tral America to Columbia.
The plainest looking of the vireos
measures 5/2 inches and has olive
gray upper parts, whitish under-
parts, with sides and flanks washed
in yellow. They have no wing bars
and a faint white line over each eye.
The yellow-throated vireo has a song
similar to the red-eyed, but with
shorter phrases and longer intervals.
It is 6I/4 inches long, olive-green
above, with yellow throat and breast,
greenish sides, white belly, two white
Their warbling call is uriimstat^
able; a clear constant, indesciiba)?Ie
warble of up to 20 notes, all runlGng
together, as often as 4,000 times a day!
I remember it as a boy in Wisconsin as
the bird I never saw but would hear
all summer. I could never get a good
look at it because of its habit of forag-
ing through the tops of densely
leafed trees up against the sky. It was
years later that I finally realized
whose song it was.
Warbling vireos nest and live high
in tall oaks, elms, maples, cotton-
woods, sycamores, and willows,
where they feed on insects and cater-
pillars. The trees may be part of a
shady tree-lined road, in open wood-
lands, along lakeshores or rivers, or
in wet bottomlands. The birds sus-
pend their nest from a fork far out on
a/drooping limb and build it out of
the same basic materials as other
vireos, forming a hanging cup.
They have a wide breeding range
from all across the northern half of
the United States and southern Cana-
da, extending to Virginia. Warbling
vireos leave in September to winter
in Central America and northern
The white-eyed is fairly common in
Virginia in the thickets and vine tan-
gles of woodland edges, along
streams, lakes, and swamps, and in
upland thickets of vines and briars. I
saw my first white-eyed vireo in a
dense hedgerow in the Amelia
Wildlife Management Area.
It is grayish-olive above, white
below, with pale yellow sides and
flanks. It has white eyes with yellow
spectacles, a white chin, dark wings
with a pair of white wing bars, and
measures about SYi inches. The song
is described phonetically in many
ways but my favorite is "pick-up-the-
beer-check." Sometimes it utters par-
tial imitations of other birds. Its call is
a scolding "tick," and it can get quite
upset if you get too close to its nest.
Oddly, it is also very inquisitive and
will try to sneak up on a person much
like a catbird.
The white eye's nest is a more
bulky and loosely constructed, cone-
shaped, hanging affair, usually built
in dense, low-growing shrubs. It too
is made up of plant fibers, moss,
sticks, lichens, cocoons, wasp paper,
White eyes feed on flies, beetles,
Tnoth and butterfly larvae, and wild
fruits. They winter along the South
Atlantic and Gulf coast into Mexico
and Central America.
Formerly known as the solitary vireo,
the blue-headed vireo nests in the Al-
leghenies and Appalachians amid
the cool, dark reaches of mixed
coniferous-deciduous woodlands of
pine, hemlock, oaks, hickory, and
beech. As its name implies, it has a
bluish-gray head with a distinctive
white eye ring and white throat, a
greenish back, white underparts
with yellowish sides, and dark wings
with two white wing bars. Its song is
typical of vireos and similar to the
red-eyed, although higher pitched
and clearer, with shorter phrases and
It builds a pendant nest near the
ground in forks of horizontal branch-
es near the center of a small tree con-
structed of typical vireo building ma-
terials. The female blue-headed is
said to be fearless, and there are
records of the bird allowing itself to
be stroked while sitting on its nest.
Blue-headed vireo feed at mid-story
or high in the canopy on caterpillars
and otlier insects.
Winter is spent along the South
Atlantic and Gulf coasts, south to
Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
( Vireo ph iladelph us)
This vireo does not breed in Virginia
but is a common migrant to and from
its breeding and wintering grounds.
It was first recognized and described
near Philadelphia; thus, the name. It
is 5 inches long, grayish-olive above,
with yellowish or whitish underparts
and a grayish crown. There is a faint
white stripe over the eye and faint
wing bar. Its song is similar to the red-
eyed but higher pitched, slower, and
This vireo moves north quickly in
spring, usually with the last flights of
warblers. It breeds in the northern
United States and Canada, from
Maine and New Brunswick to Alber-
ta. It prefers woodland edges, clear-
ings, and burned over areas, as well
as aspen, willow, and alder thickets
near streams and lakes.
It builds its nest in the fork of a wil-
low or alder using willow down,
birch bark strips, lichens, and grasses.
This vireo is a more active feeder
than the others, sometimes hanging
upside down to get at caterpillars
and often launching quickly to cap-
ture flying insects.
Philadelphia vireos migrate
south in September, back through
Virginia to Mexico and Central
Spike Knuth is an avid naturalist
and wildlife artist. For over 30 years his
artwork and ivritiiig have appeared in Virgiiiia
Wildlife. He is a member of the Virginia Out-
door Writers Associatio)i.
Be Wild! Live Wild! Grow Wild! is a
regular feature that highlights Vir-
ginia's Wildlife Action Plan, which is
designed to unite natural resources
agencies, sportsmen and women, con-
servationists, and dtizens in a com-
mon vision for the conservation of the
Commonwealth's wildlife and habitats
in which they live. To learn more or to
become involved with this program
Calendar of Events
Unless otherwise noted, for current infor-
mation and registration on workshops go
to the "Upcoming Events" page on our
Web site at www.HuntFishVA.com or call
July 28: Flat Out Catfish Workshop,
James River, Riclimond.
July 30, August 1 and 6: PhotograpJi-
iug Butterflies and Otlier Cool Bugs in
the Garden; with Lynda Richardson;
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden,
August 7-9: Virginia Outdoor Spiorts-
inan Shoxv, Richmond; www.sports-
August 14-16: Mother-Daughter Out-
doors Weekend, Holiday Lake 4-H
August 25: Flat Out Catfish Workshop
11, James River, Richmond.
August 29: Ladies' Day Shooting
(Handgun or Shotgun) Clinics, Cava-
lier Rifle & Pistol Club; For reserva-
Hons call (804) 370-7565 or e-mail
September 10, 12 and 17: Photograph-
ing Colors, Textures, and Patterns in the
Garden; with Lynda Richardson;
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden,
September 12: Jakes Event; Page Val-
ley Sportsman's Club; contact Art
Kasson at (540) 622-6103 or artkas-
son@y ahoo . com .
September 12-13: Western Regional
Big Game Contest, www.iwla-rh.org.
September 26: Eastern Shore Birdhig
and Wildlife Festival, Cape Charles.
September 26-27: Eastern Regional
Big Game Contest and State Champi-
onship, www.vpsa.org. U
Congratulations to all the winners of the youth writing contest, sponsored by the VOWA
and recognized at the spring business meeting. Left to right: Lucy Adams, Mark Robin-
son, Taylor N. Fariss, Scott T. Rollins, and Holly Kays.
Cultivating the Next
Congratulations to this year's win-
ners of the undergraduate and high
school writing competitions, award-
ed by the Virginia Outdoor Writers
Lucy Adams, Sophomore
"Summer of the Rattlesnake"
Holly Kays, Sophomore
"With a Notebook in Hand"
HIGH SCHOOL WINNERS
Mark Robinson, Senior
Patrick Henry High School, Roanoke
Scott T. Rollins, Senior
King George Higli School, King George
"Monarch of the Pines"
Taylor N. Fariss, Senior
Lancaster High School, Weems
"The Miracle of Winter" D
Summer of the Rattlesnake
by Lucy Adams
It had been a battle keeping the kids'
flashlights off, but we thought it
worth the effort. We had wanted
them to have the full experience of
the woods at night, to be able to see
without being seen by all the life
around them. We had been tliinking
in terms of the smaller sorts of
wildlife — and by the end of the walk,
we'd already caught a brightly col-
ored red salamander and several of
the familiar northern duskies.
Now, for the walk back, we were
doing our best to fully enforce the no-
flashlight rule; perhaps if we were
successful we would get the chance
to hear a barred owl or another noc-
turnal bird. That is, if we could en-
force silence as well. We were fight-
ing a losing battle on the silence front
unhl it fell all of its own accord at the
sound of crackling beside the path.
We quickly pointed our flash-
lights in the direction of the sound —
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
and illuminated the long sinuous
body of a fully grown timber rat-
tlesnake. The light from our flash-
lights reflected off his scales, and we
could clearly see a lump in the mid-
dle of his stomach where he had
parked his dinner. There was a corre-
spondingly large lump in my throat
as we walked on, after staring for sev-
eral moments in awe.
It seemed as though moments
like that — moments where the inner
workings of nature were suddenly
and unexpectedly revealed — were
common at nature camp. The year I
saw the timber rattler was the year I
went back to camp to teach, because
I'd gotten too old to go back there to
learn. I couldn't bear to be parted
from a place I loved so much, and I
figured I would somehow manage to
develop whatever it was my coun-
selors had that kept me coming back
as a camper for so many years. Never
mind the fact that I have a recurring
tendency to avoid all person-to-per-
son interactions (too fraught with the
danger of an awkward silence or a so-
cial faux pas). I'd deal with that when
the time came.
Anyway, what I remember most
about my counselors was not their
social abilities; it was the look on their
faces when they were given the
honor of catching a glimpse of the
hidden, natural world. 1 still remem-
ber the glowing look on our ornithol-
ogy teacher's face when she found a
hummingbird nest lodged in the fork
of a tree at the end of camp. The
branch was mottled with lichen, and
the nest itself was not much more
than a lichen-colored bump with a
hole in it large enough to fit my
thumb. Maybe. The whole thing was
only visible through a tiny gap
amidst a profusion of green leaves. I
remember filling with excitement as
Natalie carefully directed my binocu-
lars in the right direction and the little
nest came into focus.
When I went back to camp to
teach, I taught freshwater ecology. I
taught kids that when you turn over
rocks in the stream, you are uncover-
ing a whole world full of alien crea-
tures — the larvae of stoneflies,
mayflies and caddisflies — that, if
magnified to human proportions.
would become fearsome dragons
and deadly wild beasts.
As it is, a mayfly larva will fit in
the palm of your haiid, and if you fill
the palm of your hand witli water, its
delicate gills will vibrate quickly back
and forth to extract all the oxygen
from that water supply. I realized it
doesn't require any fine-tuned social
graces to place a captured mayfly
into the hands of an eager child and
to watch his face light up with the
same excitement 1 felt when I finally
focused on the hummingbird nest.
I'd gone back to camp because I
couldn't bear to stay away from it,
but in doing so, I found something as
rewarding as discovering a hidden
nest smaller than my thumb, or hear-
ing the crackling of last fall's leaves
beneath the body of a rattlesnake. I
discovered the pleasure of listening
to the joyful shouts of children who
are holding a mayfly for the first time
or hearing gasps of wonder from
someone who has never seen a snake
in the wild before. I figure that if I can
instill that sense of wonder in even a
few people, my life will have been
worth it. ~
VOWA Excellence in
Craft Award Winners
Bob Gooch Column:
First: King Montgomery with "To-
morrow's Angler" in An Angler's
Jounial, PressBox Sforts Magazine.
Second: Bill Cochran for "Planting
trees is something you do for your
grandchildren," the Roanoke Times.
Third: King Montgomery with "A
Tooth for a Tooth" in An Angler's
Jounial, PressBox Sports Magazine.
First: John Shtogren, "Jarrett Rifles
and Cowden Plantation," in The Vir-
Second: John Shtogren, "Primland
Toms" in The Virginia Sportsman.
Third: Bruce Lemmert, "Primum
Non Nocere. First, Do No Harm" in
Virginia Wildlife, December 2008.
First: King Montgomery "Blcindfield
Plantation" in TJie Virginia Sportsman.
Second: Marie Majarov for Kingfish-
er, cover of Virginia Wildlife, March
2008 photography issue.
Third: King Montgomery "Retvirn to
the River of Swans: Chilean Patago-
nia," The Virginia Sportsman. □
by Beth Hester
A Natural History of Quiet Waters
by Curtis J. Baciger
2007 University of Virginia Press
"Agrowing number of us are discovering
that sioamps are an aesthetically pleasing
landscape. No other natural system is
quite so diverse, with such a wide variety
of plants, birds, animals and insects. "
- Curtis J. Badger
After coming into a bit of money,
Curtis Badger set out to do a little in-
vesting. He dicin't select a diversified
portfolio of mutual funds, or a dull
slab of commercial property; what
Curtis really wanted was a swamp.
The upshot of this quest to pos-
sess "real estate of ill repute" was a
three-acre parcel of land on Pun-
goteague Creek, and a neatly made
volume of lyrical explorations into
the nature of swamps and other wet-
lantis — those precious, marshy re-
gions of cypress, spartina grass, and
black giim. Curtis sets the stage by
walking us through a brief political
history of our complex relationsliip
with wetlands, including the govern-
ment's quirky policies of mitigation
and 'no net loss.' From there, he takes
us on aii ecological tour of selected
quiet waters along the mid-Atlantic.
Reading the book is a bit like tak-
ing a meandering, yet instructive,
guided canoe trip, gliding along as
Curtis pauses to point out the flora
and fauna that make wetland ecosys-
tems work: water lilies, bluegill, pro-
thonotary warblers, snails, dam-
selflies, and Virginia pine.
Of particular interest is the chap-
ter devoted to songbird migration
and the crucial role played by the
maritime forests, salt marshes, and
barrier islands of the mid-Atlantic
coastal corridor. Each year, these spe-
cialized regions provide seemingly
endless ribbons of traveling song-
birds with much needed pit stops.
Whether salty or brackish, wet-
lands provide us with a natural
means of erosion control, clean water,
and nurseries for fish. For centuries,
swamps have gotten a bad rap, but
Curtis maintains that in getting to
know one, we will begin to appreci-
ate the biological diversity that make
wetlands special places indeed. D
Pinnacle Natural Area
The Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve
is located in Russell County. The area
consists of 663 protected acres where
Cedar Creek winds around, and
eventually empties, into the Clinch
River. The preserve has several
marked trails for hiking, one of
which ends at a beautiful natural wa-
terfall called Big Falls. The Pinnacle
Natural Preserve gets its name from a
towering rock made of limestone and
dolomite bedstone. A swinging
bridge takes you over Cedar Creek
and leads to multiple trails.
The Webelos I Den of Cub Scout
Pack 119 performed a community
service project within this natural
area preserve. On March 17th, seven
Scouts and their adult partners
picked up trash along the edge of
Cedar Creek, which is a stocked trout
stream. Along the approximately 1.5-
mile stretch of this stream, as well as
the trail leading to the Big Falls, these
Scouts gathered 38 bags of trash and
litter in one evening: everything from
cans and glass bottles to tires; they
even recovered an old kayak!
The Webelos I Scouts who partic-
ipated were: Austin Brown, Gabe
Hess, Ben Holmes, Levi Horton, Jor-
dan Stout, Branson Sutherland, and
Tyler Vencill, as well as den leaders
Daniel and Teena Hess and Rodney
and Shelley Stout. The Scouts ap-
plied the principles of "Leave No
Trace" and realized the importance of
leaving a place cleaner than they
found it. They also realized how litter
and carelessly tossing trash can hurt
the environment, pollute streams,
and harm wildlife.
After picking up litter, they also
put out "Leave No Trace" birdseed
bagels. These were made by spread-
ing a thin layer of peanut butter on
top of a bagel and then dipping the
bagel in birdseed. No hanger or
string was attached to the bagels that
could harm the birds or other wildlife
we are trying to preserve. The Scouts
placed the bagels on tree branches,
using the hole in the bagel to hang,
for area birds to reach with ease. This
project helped them realize the im-
portance of bird and wildlife preser-
vation in their community.
By participating in this and simi-
lar service projects, each Scout will
earn the Cub Scout World Conserva-
tion Award. Being community and
service-oriented and ecologically-
minded can begin even at a young
age. These Scouts are well on their
way to helping the Earth become a
This ixyort was contributed by Cub Scout Pack
119 of Lebanon, Virginia.
1 ^ ■'
Congratulations to Sarah Lesser (L),
sliown here with Executive Director Bob
Duncan. Sarah was the Overall Individual
Female State Champion of the 2009 NASP
Tournament. We apologize for the error in
our May 2009 issue.
1— -^.^^^^ >*9*K
"Need any help putting the
outboard motor on, Hank?"
******************** QO|_| o PJIOIX QQQ
#VIR0002235105/8#60 SEPT 09^
JOHN SMITH -^
P.O. BOX 11104
RICMOND VA 23230-1104
Reading Your Label
Is it time to renew? If you are uncertain when your subscription
expires, look for the expiration date in the circled location on
the sample above.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
by Ken and Maria Perrotte
Hooking Into Some Blues
O luefish often get a bad rap. While they generate excite-
D ment when battling at the terminal end of your fishing
tackle, they rarely elicit the same reaction with the salivary
glands of most anglers we know. These fun-to-catch, hard
fighting water marauders are frequently viewed as oily, line-
slashing pests best suited for rendition into cut bait.
Those who do eat bluefish, often begrudgingly, typical-
ly recommend smoking them or using some other means
to mitigate the fish's perceived limitations. Yet, among our
northeastern coastal states, bluefish are creatively served in
some of the finest restaurants.
With a little research and some culinary trial and error,
we no longer get the blues when bluefish swarm the baits.
We're hooked on bluefish cakes.
So, the next time you're debating what to do with the
bluefish you've just brought aboard, save some fillets and
try this recipe. Captain Ryan Rogers, skipper of the Mid-
night Sun charter fishing boat out of Reedville first suggest-
ed this dish to us. He wasn't quite sure how to prepare it;
just certain he had heard it wasn't bad.
tablespoons chopped onions
tablespoons chopped green onions
tablespoon olive oil
cup cracker crumbs
cup crab flavored potato chips
tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoons Old Bay reduced sodium seasonings
pound cooked bluefish fillets (a little over 1 cup
teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
teaspoon brown mustard
teaspoon lemon juice
tablespoons margarine or butter
Fillet the fish early, removing all the dark stuff in the middle
of the fillet related to the lateral line. Fillets take on an al-
most grayish hue, but they vAW whiten up.
Boil or bake fillets until opaque; then crumble the
meat. This is the first step and is similar in preparation to
Heat oil in frying/saute pan. Cook onions and green
onions in oil until soft. Mk with dry ingredients in a bowl
(cracker and chip crumbs, parsley, baking soda, season-
ings) and add fish, blending gently. Mix next 5 ingredients
in a large bowl. Fold fish mixture into wet ingredients and,
using your hands, form into cakes. Bring butter to a sizzle in
the same pan, add cakes, and reduce heat to medium.
Brown on both sides, ensuring the middle of the cake gets
hot. The fish cakes can also be frozen and cooked later. We
don't recommend adding any salt. Spicy food lovers can add
cayenne or red pepper. Serve with a green salad and your fa-
vorite honey mustard dressing or over pasta with citrus
Serves two as enttee or four as appetizer. If you serve it
over salad, have a crusty bread on the side; if served over
pasta, have a side salad. A sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
wine v^ll go well with, this, but for something a little differ-
ent, try a well-chilled Portugese vinho verde.
Citnis Cream Sauce
This versatile sauce enhances many types offish, from deli-
cate sea bass to more seasoned fish cakes. A teaspoon of
sugar can be added if a sweeter sauce is desired. By changing
the ratios of cittus juices and zest, you can make a tangy
lime sauce or a sweeter orange sauce. The sauce can be
made a day ahead and reheated.
tablespoon olive oil
tablespoon chopped onions or shallots
ounces clam juice, fish stock, or vegetable broth
cup whipping cream
cup dry white wine
teaspoon orange marmalade
teaspoon lime juice
tablespoon lemon juice
teaspoon herbs de province
teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
teaspoon lemon zest
Saute onions in oil over medium-low heat until soft, about
1 minute. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil over
medium-high heat. Reduce heat; use a vdre whisk to thor-
oughly blend, and cook until reduced to desired consisten-
cy, about 12 minutes, u
by Tom Guess
There's a Storm Abrewin'
/tossed and turned with excite-
ment as the night-time hours
ticked away, finally seeing the light in
the hallway shining on the hard-
wood floor beneath the bedroom
door. It wasn't long until I heard my
grandfather's footsteps heading to-
ward the kitchen. I could hear the cof-
fee percolating, followed by the smell
and sound of bacon sizzling in his fa-
vorite cast iron skillet — music to a
boy's ears. Soon he would open the
door and say, "Hey boy . . . you gonna
sleep all day?"
Even as I wearily rolled out of
bed, I was brimming with excitement
to go! I always looked forward to his
strong coffee, half burned bacon, and
crispy fried eggs.
It was July 1978, and we were
going fishing on my grandfather's
best friend's boat in the Chesapeake
Bay out of Hampton.
I recall getting underway and
heading out from Buckroe Beach.
The water was calm, but there was a
decent groundswell coming from the
Stanley "Opa" Guess was my mentor to
becoming a sportsman.
east. Soon I found that the breakfast I
was so fond of became less pleasant
with each passing swell.
1 did what any greenhorn would
do: I pointed my face to the wind,
breathed deeply, tried to suck it up ...
and got sick! I recall my grandfather
being concerned for my well-being
but laughing at the same time. Al-
though I didn't find my saltwater rite
of passage to be quite as hilarious as
others in the boat, it was the first of
many learning experiences that day.
Seasickness affects even the most
experienced boater and can cause a
fun-filled day to turn miserable. I'm
not too proud to admit that even
though I spent a career in the Coast
Guard, I occasionally took seasick
medication when it was rough.
There are many over-the-counter and
homeopathic remedies available that
will provide relief, but you should
first discuss your options with a
pharmacist or doctor.
After catching some flounder
and then driving the boat for a bit, I
started to feel a little better. That's
when I noticed a more pronounced
chill in the air and dark, angry clouds
building in the sky. My grandfather,
being from the Shenandoah Valley,
often had a unique way of putting
things. He said, "There is a storm a-
brewin' and we're-a-gonna get wet
directly." We started heading for
cover under the Bay Bridge-Tunnel
when the heavens let loose and the
bottom fell out. I had never experi-
enced the wrath of the sea or wit-
nessed lightning and thunder like
that in my young life. I gained a new
respect for nature that day. The storm
didn't last long, but it definitely took
my mind off my seasickness.
When skies threaten, return to dry land
or seek safe harbor.
During impending weather
threats, the best course of action is to
return to dry land and get off your
boat. If that is not possible, have
everyone onboard don a lifejacket,
secure all gear, and seek safe harbor.
If you hear the Coast Guard broad-
casting urgent marine messages on
VHF-FM channel 16 and 22a, listen
closely and take immediate action.
We fared well that day, but thun-
derstorms can be deadly on the water
if you don't take appropriate action.
It was, without a doubt, one of my
most memorable trips "on the
water." It also was my initiation to a
lifelong love of boating, hunting, and
fishing. "Thanks, Opa!" D
Tom Guess, U. S. Coast Guard (Ret), serves as a
stateumie coordinator for the Boating Safety Ed-
ucation Program at DGIF.
VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com
by Lynda Richardson
Don^t Be Afraid to Flash Outctoors
A ny photographer who has ever
/l photographed in the great out-
doors has run into the problem of
having to shoot in bad light. Bright
noon-day sun beats down on your
subjects, creating harsh shadows
which can ruin a nice shot.
One solution to this challenge is
to use flash for some outdoor shots. It
might seem weird to think about
using a flash outdoors, but many
photographers use this technique
with incredible results. You can use
the camera's pop-up flash on close
subjects, but it is the removable on-
camera flashes that give you the most
versatility and power.
I have taught hundreds of pho-
tography workshops and one thing
I've discovered: Most people are
afraid of their flashes. Yes, the in-
struction booklets are intimidating
and hard to understand, but I think
the biggest problem is that people
don't practice enough. Don't wait
until your son or daughter's wed-
ding day to learn to use your flash!
Do it now before an important event
or situation arises. This is the digital
age, the age of instant gratification. If
you take a picture with your flash
and it doesn't look right, make an ad-
justment and re-shoot!
A flash offers two different shoot-
ing options: M (manual) and E TTL
(evaluative through-the-lens). A
manual flash setting allows you to
choose whichever aperture and shut-
ter speed you want for the camera, as
well as the amount of time the flash
fires. Adjustments to your flash out-
put can then be modified with the
exposure compensation feature — ei-
ther with the flash itself or the cam-
era. Just be sure not to confuse this for
the camera's exposure compensation
feature. (When in doubt, check your
flash and camera manuals.)
E TTL can be thought of as the
'automatic' setting for your flash.
When you set your flash to E TTL, the
camera and flash automatically work
Using a flash on this baMit spider really made
it pop out of the strongly lit bacl<ground. Canon
5D digital camera. Canon 180mm macro lens,
ISO 100, l/20th on tripod, fl6.0, flash fired.
together to adjust flash output based
on exposure information gathered
through the camera lens. You can still
adjust your flash output in tlie ways
If you want to learn to use your
flash outdoors, I would recommend
selecting either the Manual or the E
TTL feature (which seems to be most
popular) and practice learning to use
that feature first. Use your selected
flash feature with different camera
settings and lenses. See how it han-
dles getting close or moving far away
from your subject. What does the
tlash exposure compensation feature
on the flash or the camera do for your
Don't have an agenda for images
you have to capttire? Just go out and
have fun experimenting.
Don't let your fear of 'flashirig'
take away the opportunity to create
better images and become an even
more skilled photographer. Your
flash is an incredible tool, so don't be
afraid to give it a workout. Good
You are invited to submit one to five of your
best photographs to "Image of the Month," Vir-
ginia Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, 4010
West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230-1104.
Send original shdes, super high-quality prints,
or high-res jpeg, tiff, or raw files on a disk and
include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or
other shipping method for return. Also, please
include any pertinent information regarding
how and where you captured the image and
what camera and settings you used, along with
your phone number. We look forward to seeing
and sharing your work with our readers.
Congratulations to Dan and Harriet Modar for this beautiful and seasonally appropriate scenic,
titled "Day is Done, " taken from their front porch in Goodview. (No kidding'.) Fuji Finepix S5000
digital camera, ISO 200, l/270th,f.2.8.
Magazine subscription-related calls only 1-800-710-9369
Twelve issues for just $ 1 2.95!
All other calls to (804) 367- 1 000
Visit our Web site at www.HuntFishVA.com
onsible Be Safe Have Fun
9mmim My 12009
Poatiwg Safety Courses Are Required
Personal Watcrcraf t (PWC) "Jet Ski'
Age 20 or younger, July 1, 2009
Age 35 or younger, July 1, 2010
Age 50 or younger, July 1, 2011
All ages by July 1,2012
Motorboat 1 hp or Greater
Age 20 or younger, July 1, 2011
Age 30 or younger, July 1, 2012
Age 40 or younger, July 1, 2013
Age 45 or younger, July 1, 2014
Age 50 or younger, July 1, 2015
All ages by July 1,2016